(This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)
Burial in a cemetery associated with the VA is important to many veterans. It honors their military service, plus it can decrease the costs of their final arrangements.
However, jumping through the VA’s eligibility determination can be hard for a grieving family. If a veteran chooses to, the veteran can make the process easier for their survivors by obtaining a Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility for Burial in a VA National Cemetery.
In general, veterans and servicemembers and their spouses and certain children might be eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery. The qualifying veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge.
Spouses may be buried in a VA cemetery even if they remarry after the veteran’s death. Minor children are eligible, as are some unmarried adult children.
The VA requires a form and documentation to verify eligibility to be buried in a VA cemetery. Verifying your eligibility in advance will make the process smoother for your survivors. In addition, it will help you make other decisions about your final wishes. If you are pre-planning and pre-paying your arrangements, a pre-need determination can help you know what services you will need to plan and pay for.
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Note that filling out this form in advance is optional. If the task isn’t done before the veteran dies, survivors just need to provide the veteran’s DD Form 214 to the funeral director. The funeral director can then handle coordinating the veteran’s burial in a national VA cemetery.
For those who choose to plan in advance, to obtain this documentation, you will need to fill out an application for pre-need determination of eligibility. This can be done online (there is an option to do it without logging into your VA account), or you can print, fill in, and mail a paper copy (download it here). You will need your DD Form 214 or other separation documents. Once the VA has reviewed your application, you will receive a written determination via the regular mail.
When you receive your determination, add this to your burial planning paperwork. When it is necessary, your survivor or the assisting funeral director will call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117. Having a preneed determination of eligibility should eliminate the need for a new application and extra paperwork.
While a pre-need determination will speed the process, it does not guarantee which national cemetery you will be buried in. Availability will be assessed at the time of need.
Your Guide to Military Burials
MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE Members can get information on this topic, including details on Arlington National Cemetery and VA-managed cemeteries.